Elder J. M. Pendleton, D. D., was born in Spottsylvania county, Va., November 20, 1811 and was named for James Madison, then President of the United States. His parents moved to Christian connty, Ky., when he was a year old. He was brought up to work on a farm, going to school in the neighborhood as he could be spared from the farm. He studied nothing but the common branches of an English education; not going higher than arithmetic, geography and grammar. He had religious impressions from his childhood, which, when he was fifteen years old, led him to form a resolution to seek salvation. For two years he groped in the dark, a wretched sinner, and then he trusted in the Savior and found peace to his soul. When seventeen years old, he united with the Bethel church, Christian county, and was baptized by Reverend John S. Wilson on the 14th day of April, 1829; he was licensed to preach in 1831, and in 1833 removed to Hopkinsville, Ky., and became a student of Christian County seminary. There he studied Latin and Greek for three years. He preached two Sundays and one Saturday in every month to the church in Hopkinsville, and the same to the Bethel church, which he first joined. He removed his membership to Hopkinsville, and was ordained there, November 1, 1833; the presbytery was composed of Reuben Ross, William Tandy, William C. Warfield and Robert Rutherford. He remained in Hopkinsville four years -- 1833 to 1836, inclusive. He became pastor of the Bowling Green church, Ky., the first day of the year 1837, and continued in that position twenty years, with the exception of about one year spent in Russellville as pastor.
Pendleton grew up in Christian County, Ky. and pastored the First Baptist Church of Hopkinsville, Ky., (1833-1836), Russellville (1850) and Bowling Green (1836-1857) before going on to serve in Tennessee, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The first of January, 1857, he removed to Murfreesboro, Tenn., to accept the professorship of Theology, in Union university, and to become pastor of the church at that place; which positions he filled with dignity and honor and to the great satisfaction of the brethren, until the breaking out of the war in 1861, when the university was suspended; and in 1862, to escape the ravages of war, he removed to Hamilton, O., where he was pastor for three years. In November, 1865, he became pastor of the Baptist church at Upland, Pa., where he still remains at this writing (1877).
He was married March 13 1838, to Miss Catharine S. Garnett, who has been to him all that a husband could desire. By her he has had seven children, two of whom died in infancy. His son, John M., differing with his father in regard to the war, became a Confederate soldier, and though he was never in a battle, was killed by the fragment of a shell as the two armies were seeking positions at Perryville, Ky., October 8, 1862. His oldest daughter, Letitia, married James Waters, of Tennessee, in 1860, who are now living in New York. His second daughter, Fannie, was married to Leslie Waggener, in 1867. Mr. Waggener is connected with Bethel college, Russellville, Ky. His youngest daughter, Lila, was married November 9, 1876, to B. F. Proctor, a lawyer of Bowling Green, Ky. His only surviving son, Garnett, was educated at Rochester university, New York; graduated in 1875, and is now a student at law in Philadelphia.
Elder Pendleton is the author of a number of books, pamphlets and tracts; his brain and hands are never idle. His first work ever published was entitled: "Three Reasons Why I am a Baptist," which was published in 1853, and met with great favor by the denomination. Next followed his volume of "Sermons," in 1858, of a highly edifying character, on doctrinal and practical subjects. Following this, was his "Church Manual," which every church member should own and read and practice. This volume was published in 1868. His treatise on "The Atonement of Christ," appeared in 1869, which should find a place in every preacher's library. He is the author of "Thoughts on Christian Duty;" "Questions to the Impenitent;" "An Old Landmark Reset;" "Christianity Susceptible of Legal Proof;" "The Fatherhood of God;" "God's Dealings with the United States of America;" "Church Discipline;" "The Lord's Supper," etc. He was one of the editors of "The Southern Baptist Review," all the time it was published -- six years; one of the editors of "The Tennessee Baptist," for several years. He has perhaps written, in the last forty years, more for our religious denominational papers than any other man. No publications are more sought for, than those which issue from his pen, by Baptists. His writings are live, his oral sermons, of easy comprehension -- sentences usually short; his language terse; his arguments are pointed, irresistable, no tautology; no redundancy; just as many words used as necessary, and no more, and they not repeated. His works are of the very highest order, and his theology of the soundest sort -- has the right ring, the Scriptural ring.
At this time (1877), he is writing, "A Compendium of Theology," which will contain some four or five hundred pages, and will, perhaps, be published during this year. This volume, when it appears, will doubtless be like those which have preceded it from his pen, of a highly interesting and edifying character.
Elder Pendleton is now in his sixty-sixth year, and is as close a student now as he ever was, and is as conscientious in preparing for the pulpit. He is right; there is no place to stop till we lay down life and its burdens together. He is now reading the New Testament through in Greek, the eighteenth time, and has read it in Latin and French. All of his productions have met with the highest compliments, and are eminently worthy of them all, and more.
Doctor Pendleton has a well deserved and well earned national reputation, which few men have attained.
In the year 1865, Denison University, of Ohio, conferred upon him the honorary title of Doctor of Divinity.
[From Rev. Joseph H. Borum, Biographical Sketches of Tennessee Baptist Ministers, Memphis: Rogers & Co., Publishers, 1880; rpt CHR&A, 1976, pp. 511-513. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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